Behind the Scenes!!, Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori
I read several volumes of Ouran High School Host Club and the first couple volumes of Millenium Snow way back in the day, so I was looking forward to this new series. Behind the Scenes!! takes place in a film props and set department at an arts college.
Ranmaru Kurisu comes from a fishing village, where he has never fit in. His bad luck isn’t quite reaching Ataru Moroboshi, Ranmaru automatically assumes that everything is his fault and he seems to spend most of his time apologizing unnecessarily. One day, he accidentally finds himself on set during the filming of a zombie movie on campus, spoiling the shot. He gets a rapid-fire introduction to the Art Squad, a team of students who support all the film clubs on campus. Ryuji Goda is the leader, and he immediately tells Ranmaru to sit down and start folding paper cranes for movie props.
It turns out that Ranmaru is incredibly good at crafts, but he spends so much time putting himself down he isn’t very aware of his own abilities. One aspect of his character development that I thought was incredibly clever on Hatori’s part is that Ranmaru’s perspective allows him to both anticipate and recover from disasters when they happen, because he’s just constantly thinking of how things could go wrong. Ranmaru spots a crack in a skylight in the Art Club’s studio space, and when the window shattering results in a prop getting damaged, he’s able to forage for supplies and improvise some impressive fixes. Ryuji sees Ranmaru’s talent and proclaims him as the Art Clubs savior.
Stories featuring found families are always appealing to me. While in many ways Behind the Scenes!! is very different from Paradise Kiss, both series feature characters who were alone who get adopted by art students and end up being transformed by the power of art. Behind the Scenes!! has a large supporting cast aside from Ranmaru and Ryuji, and there wasn’t enough space in the first volume to go into depth about some of the characters, so a few of them only fixed in my mind as “girl who loves special effects horror manga” or “handsome bland dude who likes latte art”. I’m sure that the supporting characters will all get more stories as the manga develops, and I’m looking forward to finding out more. The dynamic between the art squad and the student directors is a bit antagonistic and seems to rely a bit on forced drama, but the dynamic of a team of people all with different talents coming together to create props and sets made this manga fun to read, even if it doesn’t yet approach the goofy ridiculousness of Ouran High School Host Club.